Last year for Thanksgiving, Lindsey read through the book of Psalms. When I went out to the porch to see her after her devotion time one morning, she said, “Give thanks to the Lord who struck down the firstborn of Egypt. His love endures forever.”
Yea. I said the same thing. What the heck?
Psalm 136:1-12 is the Thanksgiving Psalm. Multiple praise and worship songs have been written from this one portion of Scripture. So we talked through the Psalm in context. God delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery and this is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving for God’s children. However, reading it today reads like we are praising a God who murdered babies.
It reminded me of a conversation with one of my favorite friends yesterday, “Steve Austin” she asked, “How do you know you trust God?” Well holy crap, that’s a loaded question. After a couple of personal tragedies that would leave the strongest of humans in a crumpled pile of confusion, she still believes in God wholeheartedly. She doesn’t question the tenets of our faith, and she’s truly devoted to following Christ. However, she can’t say she trusts God. “Trust him to do what? To what end? We can trust God and babies still die.”
Her faith isn’t simple. Neither is mine. If you’ve lived very long, yours probably isn’t either. At some point, Sunday School answers just don’t cut it for every question.
We talked about the use of Christianese and the ways we have all been guilty of trying to say something comforting when a friend is going through a hard time. But “God is in control” may not be the most appropriate response at certain times.
I thought back on being raised to quote Romans: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” While that may very well be true and the inspired, infallible Word of God, it isn’t exactly what someone needs to hear in times of trouble.
On the back porch this morning, Lindsey said, “I’m not quite to the place where I can say, God took us to Alaska, dropped us four thousand miles from home and allowed us just enough time to fall in love with the community before everything fell apart. His love endures forever.” Amen. I agree.
I don’t always understand His ways, but in the words of Carlos Whittaker, I do trust that “one day the suck will be less.” I cannot honestly say I believe God will work ALL things for our good and for His glory. But I can trust that one day, when we leave these bodies that are prone to leukemia and Parkinson’s and dementia, I believe that God will meet us in Heaven and either explain it all or His reasoning will matter less. One day, after a heartbreak, we may actually look back and say, “Look what the Lord has done.” One day we may be amazed at the blessing He brought about through our suffering. But in the midst of the mess, that fact does not comfort me.
I think about the life of Jesus. God made Flesh dwelt among us and lived a fully human – and fully faithful – life during his three decades on this earth. Yet during his final days, in the Garden of Gethsemane, even Jesus said, “Hey Pops, if there is any other way, let’s just high five and call this good. Because what I am experiencing and what I am about to do just plain sucks.” (My paraphrase, of course).
Sometimes trusting God isn’t triumphant or glorious. Sometimes trusting God isn’t even a desire. It’s a stubbornness that cries in the middle of the night, but attaches firmly to my faith. Sometimes trusting God isn’t a praise song with the full band on a Sunday morning, but rather it’s a stick-to-it-ness that says I know there is something deeper than my pain and a Power higher than anything I can rationalize, so I’ll give this another shot tomorrow.
I go to bed at night, after an especially difficult day, week, month, life, and I am willing to wake up in the morning, willing to do it all over again. That wasn’t always the case for me. There were two years when I prayed to die. Often. There were multiple times when I floored the car on the interstate, engine revving, ready to crash into the overpass in front of me. I’ve said before how I spent some time in ICU and on the psych ward because hard times nearly got the best of me. But I am being renewed day by day. My soul is being saved continually. I know I trust God because when the shit hits the fan, I still find peace in Him.
For many people, Easter doesn’t feel “good”. Especially if you feel caught in the tension between faith and mental health.
Or faith and doubt.
Or faith and suffering.
This year for Good Friday, the CXMH Podcast opened our show to writers and everyday people who feel caught in the tension. The confessions and laments we received are beautiful and raw. I know you’re super busy, but if you find time, check this out.
If you can – get alone, be still, and quiet. Light a candle. Maybe make a makeshift communion. Do whatever you can to fully experience this very special hour of CXMH.
I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a project than this.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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